James Love on 9 Jul 2000 19:10:31 -0000

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<nettime> [Random-bits] Dispute over .union Top Level Domain

     [orig To: info-policy-notes <info-policy-notes@lists.essential.org>,
      RANDOM-BITS <random-bits@lists.essential.org>]

LPA (http://www.lpa.org) is a group of corporate managers that
lobby the US Congress and the US government, on behalf of
management, on issues such as labor union organizing or civil
rights for workers.  Among the projects of the LPA is NLRB Watch
(http://www.nlrbwatch.com/), a web site and newsletter that
alerts employers to activities of the US National Labor Relations
Board (NLRB), and promotes various anti-union views.  

On July 8, 2000, the LPA wrote a six page letter to ICANN that
provided a full scale attack on the proposal to create a .union
top level internet domain, to be controlled by labor unions.  For
background on the .union proposal, see: 

Many of the LPA's attacks on the .union proposal echo the similar
naive critics of new proposals for civil society Top Level
Domains.  For example, much is made of potential disputes among
competing unions to get a domain such as boeing.union, where
multiple unions represent workers or are seeking to represent
workers.  Mentioned only in passing is the fact that in such
cases the domain would be a gateway or portal to various unions
with interests in providing information about union activate with
of a particular firm or employer.  While it is true that the
management of something like a .union TLD will involve choices
and decisions, the global labor union community is apparently
willing to take this task on.  A group of international labor
organizations, lead to the International Confederation of Free
Trade Unions (ICFTU), has been holding discussions on this issue,
and is expected to come forward with a formal ICANN proposal at
some time.

The ICANN board meets in Yokohama on July 14, 2000, and will discuss
rules for TLDs like .union.  Manon Ress of the Debs-Jones-Douglass
Institute (http://www.djdinstitute.org) has proposed a resolution to the
ICANN non-commercial constituency that reads:

     The .union TLD should be controlled and managed by labor
     unions.  With the exception of limited technical issues that
     affect Internet navigation and stability, and the selection
     of a bona fide global labor union body that will control the
     registry, ICANN should not interfere with the management of
     the .union TLD.

The July 8, 2000 letter from LPA opposing the .union TLD is
evidence that corporate management now sees the .union TLD
proposal as potentially a powerful labor union organizing tool,
and a significant threat to corporate management interests. The
LPA letter follows:

   Jamie love

<-------------------- LPA Letter to ICANN ----------->

July 8, 2000
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
4676 Admiralty Way, Suite 330
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Re: July 2000 ICANN Yokohama Meeting Topic: Introduction of New
Top-Level Domains
To Whom It May Concern:

LPA is pleased to submit comments regarding the likely addition
of new top level domain names by the Internet Corporation on
Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). In particular, LPA registers
its strong opposition to the adoption of a .union chartered top-
level domain (TLD), which was mentioned as an example of a new
domain name in ICANN's June 13, 2000 background document. The
addition of a .union TLD would cause undue confusion among
Internet users, particularly among employees who are not
represented by a union. Moreover, a .union TLD would violate many
of the principles announced by Working Group C in its
supplemental white paper. At a minimum, LPA recommends that ICANN
refrain from accepting a .union TLD in the initial round of
expansion and instead draw on the lessons learned from the
implementation of other chartered top level domains that are
added before evaluating the viability of .union TLD.

LPA is an association of the senior human resource executives of
more than 200 leading corporations in the United States. LPA's
purpose is to ensure that U.S. employment policy supports the
competitive goals of its member companies and their employees.
LPA member companies employ more than 12 million employees, or 12
percent of the private sector U.S. workforce. LPA members have a
substantial interest in making sure that employees receive
accurate information about whether they are represented by a
union or not. The addition of a .union top-level domain could
prematurely undermine employee confidence in the use of the
Internet as a tool for communicating with employees.

I. The Creation of a .union TLD Would Create Confusion and
Administrative Problems

LPA believes that a .union TLD would create more problems than
benefits and should be dropped from consideration, particularly
at this stage of domain name expansion. The creation of a .union
TLD could confuse employees, especially those who are not
familiar with union organizing procedures. The .union domain name
would also likely require the chartering entity to put in place
sophisticated application and management procedures to reduce the
inevitable disputes that would arise among competing unions.
Moreover, it is far from clear that a .union TLD would pass
muster under the principles set forth by the Domain Name
Supporting Organization's Working Group C.

A. Background on the .union Proposal

The background paper posted on ICANN's web site on June 13, 2000,
used a .union top level domain name (TLD) as an example of a non-
commercial chartered TLD that could be sponsored and managed by a
group of interested labor unions.1 The .union TLD proposal was
introduced by Jamie Love, the director of the Consumer Project on
Technology and John Richard, director of Essential Information,
both technology-related interest groups affiliated with Ralph

On March 1, 2000, they sent a letter to Esther Dyson, the chair
of ICANN, indicating their interest in establishing a .union TLD,
described as:

     a "union label" for cyberspace. Use of the domain would be
     restricted to bona fide labor unions. Examples of the use of
     this TLD would include: nike.union, exxon.union,
     microsoft.union, as well as other uses . It is our goal to
     use the .union domain to strengthen union organizing
     efforts, and to make it easier for workers at a firm to
     communicate with unions that represent workers at the firm,
     or who are seeking to organize workers at the firm, and for
     unions in different countries to coordinate efforts with
     each other.  

     Letter from James Love and John Richard to Esther Dyson,
     chair of ICANN, Mar. 1, 2000.

Shortly after the letter was sent, a meeting was held reportedly
involving Mr. Love, union leaders in the United States, the chair
of ICANN's working group on trademark issues and senior
representatives from the Department of Commerce to discuss the
prospects of a .union TLD. During the meeting, some union
representatives noted that having domains under a company name
could enhance cooperation among unions in several countries in
dealing with the same company. Nothing in the written account of
the meeting mentioned the prospect of employee confusion.2

Subsequent to the meeting, a posting from Pruett Duncan of the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions indicated that
many of the international trade union organizations would be
interested in participating in, and even managing, a .union TLD.3
This indicates that already there is competition for the
management of a .union TLD between the AFL-CIO in the United
States and a group of international trade union organizations.
Competition for sponsorship of a .union TLD aside, LPA believes
that a .union TLD would create excessive confusion among
employees and would be counterproductive in enhancing the
Internet in the initial round of domain name expansion.

B. The .union Proposal Would Create Employee Confusion

LPA's primary concern with a .union TLD is that a domain name
such as nike.union would create substantial employee confusion
and labor relations problems. These issues take a .union TLD
proposal out of the "technical" realm occupied by ICANN and into
the realm of labor relations policies governed by legislative and
administrative bodies in the United States and other countries. A
union TLD is also likely to create several difficult domain name
management issues that ICANN would have to resolve with the
organization that is granted a .union TLD charter.

1 See ICANN Yokohama Meeting Topic: Introduction of New Top-Level
Domains, II(C)(2-3) <http://www.icann.org/yokohama/new-tld-
2 James Love, Friday's Dot Union Briefing, April 1, 2000,
3 Duncan Pruett, Some Thoughts on a Chartered GTLD for Trade
Unions, May 31, 2000, <http://lists.essential.org/pipermail/nc-


A company.union TLD could potentially confuse employees into
thinking that they were already represented by a union that was
formed by or recognized by the company. In the United States and
other countries, it is illegal to have a union that is formed by
the company (a company union).4 Generally, in the United States,
an employer can only recognize a union after employees have voted
for a union in a secret ballot election or after the company has
obtained an objective measure that a majority of employees in the
bargaining unit support the union. The union normally
demonstrates a showing of interest by having employees sign union
authorization cards that indicate that the employee wants to be
represented by a labor union. 

Even though a company union is illegal in the United States, a
nike.union domain name, for example, could create the impression
that all or many Nike employees are already represented by a
union initiated or run by the company (i.e., the Nike union).
Alternatively, a nike.union domain name could lead employees to
the conclusion that they already had an independent union, and
could allow a union organizer to play upon this impression to
convince employees to sign union authorization cards. There is
substantial evidence in U.S. labor jurisprudence that individual
union locals seeking to organize particular employers have
misrepresented the significance of signing an authorization card
in order to convince employees to sign the cards.5  If a .union
TLD were created, at the very least, the entity holding the
charter would have to set well-defined rules regarding the
accuracy of the information available on chartered web addresses.

Further confusion could arise for employees working at different
companies that have the same name. As John Berryhill pointed out
in a March 25, 2000 posting, "at delta.union will they be the
faucet makers or the airline employees?"6 One can think of
several other examples that could further lead to employee and
union confusion.

C. A .union TLD Would Require Constant Oversight by the
Chartering Entity

A chartered .union TLD would require significant monitoring and
oversight by the holder of the charter, and it would require a
sophisticated dispute resolution mechanism to resolve conflicts
that develop among unions, regarding rights to domain names and
misinformation posted on web sites. A .union TLD would be used
primarily for adversarial and advocacy purposes, namely to
convince employees to join one of a number of competing unions or
to engender support among employees for a union. Thus, although a
union TLD may be non-commercial, it is not non-commercial in the
same sense as a .museum TLD or a .edu TLD, which

4 See 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(2).
5 Cases in which unions have used misrepresentations to convince
employees to sign authorization cards include: Nissan Research &
Dev. Inc., 296 N.L.R.B 598 (1989) Burlington Indus., Inc. v.
NLRB, 680 F.2d 974 (4 th Cir. 1982); Medline Indus., Inc. v.
NLRB, 593 F.2d 788 (7 th Cir. 1979); Fort Smith Outerwear, Inc.
v. NLRB, 499 F.2d 233 (8 th Cir. 1974); Southern Cal. Associated
Newspapers, Inc. v. NLRB, 415 F.2d 360 (9 th Cir. 1969);
Schwarzenbach-Huber Co. v. NLRB, 408 F.3d 236 (2d Cir. 1969);
J.M. Machinery Corp. v. NLRB, 70 L.R.R. M. 3355 (5 th Cir. 1969);
Lenz Co. v. NLRB, 396 F.2d 905 (6 th Cir. 1968); Southland Paint
Co. v. NLRB, 394 F.2d 717 (5 th Cir. 1968); Dan Howard Mfg. Co.
v. NLRB, 390 F.2d 304 (7 th Cir. 1969); Swan Super Cleaners, Inc.
v. NLRB, 384 F.2d 609 (6 th Cir. 1967); Dayco Corp. v. NLRB, 382
F.2d 577 (6 th Cir. 1967); Nichols-Dover, Inc. v. NLRB, 380 F.2d
438 (2d Cir. 1967); Eng'rs & Fabricators, Inc. v. NLRB, 376 F.2d
482 (5 th Cir. 1967); Freeport Marble & Tile Co. v. NLRB, 367
F.2d 371 (1 st Cir. 1966); Bauer Welding & Metal Fabricators,
Inc. v. NLRB, 358 F.2d 766 (8 th Cir. 1966).
6 John Berryhill's Response to James Love Regarding a .union Top-
level Domain Name, Mar 25, 2000, <http://www.dnso.org/wgroups/wg-



are primarily informational in nature. The ICANN background
document erroneously grouped all three TLDs together. 

A .union TLD also could create significant conflict between and
among unions, depending upon how the charter is managed. For
example, assuming unions are the only entities eligible to
register second level domain names under a .union TLD, ICANN
would need to determine:

-    whether an individual union would have the right to register
     a company.union domain name or whether all unions interested
     in representing employees at the company would have a right
     to post information on the site;

-    if an individual union was allowed to register a
     company.union domain name, how the union would demonstrate
     that it had a legitimate interest in representing employees
     at the employer;

     if an individual union was allowed to register a .union
     domain name, the point in the organizing process at which
     the union would be allowed to register the name (before
     organizing began in earnest, after the union has begun
     organizing, after a showing of interest by employees);

     if an individual union was allowed to register a .union
     domain name, how the chartering entity would prevent
     "cybersquatting" among unions. 

If  ICANN allowed the chartering entity to sell a company.union
domain name to an individual union, other unions would be
excluded from posting information on that web site. Significant
disputes among unions competing to represent employees at the
company would result. For example, what would happen if a
competing union secured the rights to company.union, where
company's employees were already represented by a different
union?  Would the chartering entity be required to grant a right
of first refusal to the union that represented employees at the
company? In addition, where multiple unions represent different
groups of employees at a company, such an arrangement would
exclude unions that have legitimate interests at the company.

Matters would be complicated further under such an arrangement if
employees voted to decertify a union as the exclusive bargaining
representative of the employees at the company.  After the
decertification, would the chartering entity require the owner of
the do main name to surrender the name? What if the employees
decertified one union and elected to be represented by another?
Would the decertified union be required to transfer ownership
over the domain name to the newly certified union? These and
other complex issues would be created if individual unions were
allowed to own a company.union domain name.

Based on the above concerns, it would appear that, in the
interest of fairness, a .union TLD charter would have to allow
all interested unions to post information on a company.union site
to be equitable. Yet, this "gateway" approach presents its own
problems. The chartering entity would still need to determine
when a union would be allowed to post information on a company
site. In larger companies that have many unions, this could
become excessively complicated. It could be possible to have
dozens of union locals posting information to a single company
site, creating more confusion for employees and imposing
significant administrative burdens for the chartering entity,
which arguably would be required to monitor the postings.

In addition, the chartering entity would presumably be required
to establish dispute resolution procedures to resolve claims made
by competing unions about inaccurate information


posted on the web site by their rivals. Such procedures could
lead to a significant new bureaucracy to monitor and resolve
claims as unions compete for new union members.

D. The Proposal Would Violate the Principles for New TLDs Set
Forth by Working Group C

The Domain Name Supporting Organization's Working Group C on new
TLDs approved five additional principles for assessing new
general TLDs which are pertinent to the discussion of a .union
TLD. These are meaning, enforcement, differentiation, diversity,
and honesty. As analyzed below, whether a .union TLD would meet
several of these principles is questionable at best and points to
the conclusion that a .union TLD should be shelved. 

**   Meaning. According to the Working Group C summary, "an
     application for a TLD should explain the significance of the
     proposed TLD string, and how the applicant contemplates that
     the new TLD will be perceived by the relevant population of
     net users. The application may contemplate that the proposed
     TLD string will have its primary semantic meaning in a
     language other than English."7

     As explained above, the relevant population of net users for
     a .union TLD would be employees, who could be confused by a
     company.union domain name. By having a company.union TLD,
     employees may be led erroneously to believe that they were
     already represented by a union that was recognized by a

**   Enforcement. "An application for a TLD should explain the
     mechanism for charter enforcement where relevant and
     desired."8 Enforcement of the .union TLD charter has several
     aspects to it. Enforcement of a charter typically means that
     the charter is available only to those entities that are
     interested in the subject matter in question, in this case,
     labor unions. Enforcement also means, however, the need to
     ensure that all unions that wish to provide information
     under a .union domain name may do so. Because many unions
     can compete to represent the same employees at a company or
     can represent different employees at the same company,
     enforcement is likely to be a substantial undertaking that
     would require significant oversight by the chartering

**   Differentiation. "The selection of a TLD string should not
     confuse net users, and so TLDs should be clearly
     differentiated by the string and/or by the marketing and
     functionality associated with the string."9 As noted above,
     the use of a company.union TLD could confuse some employees
     into thinking that their employer had recognized a union
     when it had not or that the employer had recognized a union
     other than the one that represented its employees. 

**   Diversity. "New TLDs are important to meet the needs of an
     expanding Internet community. They should serve both
     commercial and non-commercial goals."10 Although a .union
     TLD would serve non-commercial goals, the ICANN background
     informa tion significantly misstated the effect of union
     websites by characterizing them as similar to .edu or
     .museum. Union web sites are information and advocacy tools
     in union-management relations that are inherently 

7 Addendum to WG-C consensus report to the Names Council, Apr.
17, 2000, http://www.dnso.org/dnso/notes/20000417.NCwgc-
8 Id.
9 Id.
10 Id.



     adversarial. LPA believes that there is substantial
     opportunity for some unions to profit at the expense of
     others. LPA suggests that diversity and competition  would
     be better protected by requiring unions to register through
     existing TLDs or new general and open TLDs. In addition,
     many unions are now providing benefits that involve
     commercial transactions. For example, many unions offer
     discounts on credit cards, computers and Internet access.
     These transactions would clearly take the web sites out of
     the non-commercial realm. 

**   Honesty. "A TLD should not unnecessarily increase
     opportunities for malicious or criminal elements who wish to
     defraud net users." Even if intended for bona fide
     information dissemination and sharing, a .union TLD creates
     increased opportunity for unions to convince nonunion
     employees that they are already represented by a union by
     virtue of the web site name. As stated above, some unions
     could use the existence of a company.union domain name to
     convince employees that the company supports a union and to
     convince employees to sign union authorization cards to
     demonstrate their support for the union.

In sum, LPA believes that the principles suggested by Working
Group C support the notion that a .union TLD could be
counterproductive to the domain name system.

III. More Time Is Needed to Consider New Chartered, Non-
Commercial TLD Proposals

LPA does not involve itself with the technical aspects of web
management, but it does believe that ICANN should provide
additional time for public comment on proposals for new
chartered, noncommercial TLDs. Specifically, LPA believes that
ICANN should provide a minimum 60-day period for evaluating
proposed new chartered, non-commercial TLDs after the deadline
for submission has passed, instead of the one-week period
currently suggested. This puts all parties interested in new
chartered, non-commercial TLDs on a level playing field, rather
than disadvantaging those who are interested in proposals that
were posted at the last minute.

LPA also recommends that applicants be required to provide a
detailed account of how the application process for new domain
names would operate under chartered domains. Applicants should be
required to demonstrate how they will resolve competing claims
where more than one party is likely to want access under each
domain name.

IV. Conclusion

LPA believes that the creation of .union TLD is unnecessary and
will create more confusion and conflict than access to useful
information. A .union TLD is likely to cause infighting among
unions, require the chartering entity to keep a vigilant watch on
how domain names are used, and require regular dispute resolution
proceedings. Above all, the prospect for employee confusion
merits that the proposal be dropped at this stage of Internet
expansion. Finally, to ensure a full airing of the views of
interested parties, LPA recommends that ICANN adopt a 60-day
evaluation and comment period following the deadline for filing

Sincerely yours,

Daniel V. Yager

Senior Vice President and General Counsel

SUITE 1200
WASHINGTON, DC 20005-2605
TEL  202.789.8670
FAX  202.789.0064

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